Friday, April 30, 2010

2010 Giant Pumpkin Growing Instructions and Tips

Selecting a planting site
1) Select a sunny place in your garden. Giant pumpkins thrive best in strong sunshine. The larger the area, the better (500-1,000 sq. ft.), but smaller areas have been successfully planted too. An area that receives 8-12+ hours of sunlight, per day, is ideal.
Preparing the soil and mound
1) The best pumpkins come from the best prepared soil. Dig a hole, 40”-48” deep, 2’-5’ in diameter, and mix the soil well with 6-8 bags (9-12 cubic feet) of soil amendments and/or other high organic content materials: well-aged steer or horse manure, compost, humus. More is better!
2) Put the mixed soil back in. You should have a mound, 2’-5’ in diameter, 20”-24” high at its center.
3) Allow 35’-50’ between individual mounds if you are planting more than one vine.
Germinating giant pumpkin seeds
1) Soak seeds overnight in warm water (8-12 hours.) This softens the pumpkin seed’s shell and accelerates germination. Start germinating seeds mid-late April to early-mid May. Rinse any tools, utensils, or containers that may come in contact with seeds with a 1/9, bleach/water solution to sanitize all surfaces.
2) Plant seeds in a 4” minimum or larger peat/coir pot, in a seed starting mix, flat, .75”-1.0” deep.
3) Keep seeds moist and warm, 75-80 degrees F. range, is ideal.
4) Under these conditions, seeds should sprout in 3-5 days, sometimes even sooner!
5) After the seedling has developed 1-2 true leaves, it is ready to transplant into the mound.
6) Or, you may simply sow your seeds directly into the mound. Competitive giant pumpkin growers have successfully used both methods.
Transplanting seedlings
1) Plant the seedling, peat pot and all, in the center of the mound. Peat pot should be well below the top surface of the mound. Soil surface should be just below the bottom leaves. Transplanting in the late afternoon/early evening will help reduce dehydration, initial sun and wind damage. Water thoroughly. An application of mycorrizhae fungus at this stage will assist early root development.
2) Protect the seedling from winds, strong sunlight, insects and other potential damage by placing an open cardboard box around the seedling until it gets fully established, usually, 7-10 days.
Watering, fertilizing & general care
1) Pumpkins are 90% water. Soil should be kept moist. Water daily, to once every 2-5 days, depending on your weather and soil conditions. Watering times should be consistent. Early morning (5:00 a.m.-8:30 a.m.) is the best time to water.
2) Use an organic fertilizer every 5-10 days. Seaweed (kelp) and/or fish hydrolysate are some of the fertilizers currently being used by competitive giant pumpkin growers.
3) Mulch around the main stem with compost, straw, or well-aged manure, 3”-4” deep. Leave 6”-9” of clearance around the stem. Mulching will help regulate soil temperature, help soil retain moisture and better distribute water and nutrients. To help prevent and treat powdery mildew, applying organic potassium bicarbonate as a foliar spray has been an effective treatment.
4) Place a wooden pallet/or some several shovelfuls of coarse sand underneath the pumpkin before it gets difficult to move (10-25 pounds) to keep the pumpkin’s bottom from rotting, and to facilitate lifting and transporting it later.
5) Shade the pumpkin once it reaches 24”-36” in diameter to help keep the pumpkin’s skin from hardening and cracking from the hot, mid-late summer/early fall sunshine.
6) Many competitive growers bury all of their vines, with just the leaf stalks and leaves uncovered. This promotes rooting of the vine.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Workshop at Tustin Memorial Academy:

A Fresh Crop of Giant Pumpkin Growers

Good morning, Pumpkinistas!

Giant pumpkin growing was introduced to eager and curious 130 3rd and 4th grade students and some of their parents and teachers yesterday afternoon at Tustin Memorial Academy. In a slightly abbreviated session, the attentive new giant pumpkin growers posed several excellent questions and then graciously received their giant pumpkin seeds. They were directed to share any spare seedlings they germinate with friends, relatives, and neighbors and would be rewarded by achieving Menehune status because of their generosity and good deeds.

The students plan to raise pumpkins in their school garden pictured above, to provide funding for a gift from the graduating 5th grade class to the school, in the fall. As the fall approaches and their pumpkin fund-raiser gets closer, please check the school's website at:

Best of luck this season to the latest crop of giant pumpkin growers!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Todd Slinde, Kellogg Garden Products

Future giant pumpkin growing site at Westurf Nursery

Northern California Tour, Part II
Good afternoon, Pumpkinistas!
The tour returned to Northern California this past week-end, with workshops presented at Scenic and Westurf Nurseries in Modesto, and Sierra Nursery in Roseville, CA. The weather was perfect, in the mid-high 70s, and clear. Attendees were enthusiastic, and I even had the pleasure making the acquaintance of the sister, Cathy O'Brien of a fraternity brother, Marty Malysz who was in Theta Xi at the same time with me at UCLA! Very small world...
Tomorrow afternoon, I'll be presenting the workshop to 120 4th graders in Tustin, and this week-end, I'll be in the Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA area.
Have a great week!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Legendary California Giant Pumpkin Growers and
Distinguished Panelists and They're Handsome Too!
(Left to Right) Gary Miller, Leonardo Urena, Jose' Ceja, Pete Glasier

First Week-end of the 2010 World Tour Goes to Northern California!
Good morning, Pumpkinistas!
The tour kicked-off the garden center/nursery world tour with a whirlwind schedule in Northern California. Saturday, April 17th consisted of two workshops at Yamagami's Nursery in Cupertino. Sunday, April 18th, saw the tour stopping at Van Winden's Garden Center in Napa, where I was joined by the legendary giant pumpkin growers and special guest panelists, Gary Miller, Leonardo Urena, Jose' Ceja, and Hall of Fame Grower and California State Champion, Pete Glasier. Of course, they were all very gracious and generous with their advice, and handed out some of their own special seeds and seedlings to the extremely fortunate workshop attendees. In the afternoon, the tour finished up at Harmony Farm Supply & Nursery, in Sebastopol, where a very engaged and sun-burnt group of dedicated giant pumpkin growers and soon-to-be giant pumpkin growers enjoyed the workshop.
Next week-end, back to Northern California to Modesto!

Friday, April 16, 2010

A Field of Dreams

Good afternoon, Pumpkinistas!

I have an update from Jim Fredricks in San Diego that I received earlier this month. Jim and his friend Vince are ready, and have thrown down the gauntlet to the Orange County and Los Angeles County growers!

"Hi Stuart,

Just wanted to give you a few prep pictures of the 2010 season! Me and my friend Vince are ready to go, will start in a couple weeks. Our hope is to come up this year for the weigh-off granted we have pumpkins to bring! LOL. OK, let the rumors begin! We wanted to send a fun message to everyone up north in LA, San Diego growers are coming up to bring some competition for you! We have a a couple new secret weapons we will be trying this year! Two, actually. I will keep the secret for now, but there are small whispers in the pumpkin community around the globe about a new product that helps pack on the pounds for us pumpkin growers. Yes, we will be trying this out and see what kind of freakish monsters we can grow. I will reveal the secret at the end of the season and we will see if it has good results. Let the 2010 season begin:)

Pictures show cover crop of rye, peas, vetch and clover in the patch. Tilled in just recently.


They look serious!